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HOME::Time Mastery

Top 7 Strategies to Get In Control and Organize Your Electronic Files

By Stephanie L. H. Calahan

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It has happened to you again! You need a report and you don't remember where you saved it on your computer. Oh well, you will just have to recreate it. STOP! There is a better way. If you have looked for something for 5 minutes how much money have you lost? How many times have you looked for something and it took more than 30 seconds to find? Besides losing money, what could you have accomplished with that time? Consider this: when making small changes, consider the multiplication factor. 5 minutes shaved off of weekly meetings of 10 people earning $30 per hour would amount to a savings of $6,259 a year.

  1. Use Clear File Naming Conventions -
    When computers were first introduced to the working population, there was a limit on how you could name your files. This led to very cryptic names. Fortunately, today technology has advanced. You can now name your files just about anything you want. Avoid using shortened naming conventions to name your files. You should be able to immediately recognize what a document is from the file label.

  2. Be Consistant in Your File Naming -
    Work to create a file naming standard for both your electronic and paper files and folders. For example, "Financial Plan - Home version 7" or "2006 Sales Proposal - S. Smith."

  3. Find Your Important Files Fast -
    Most computer programs display folders and files in alphabetical order, with numbers coming before letters. In order to use this to your advantage, put a digit, such as 0, 1, 2, etc. in front of your folders or files that you use most often. For example, you could name a file "0 Phone Calls for Today", or "1 To Do List." By putting the digit in front of the name, you will always have your most frequently used folders and files appear at the top of the list.

  4. Make Finding Your Digital Photos Easy -
    The digital photo industry has taken all of us by storm, and why not? It is wonderful! The cameras often provide great picture quality with instant gratification. You instantly know if you got the shot of your son or daughter making that adorable face . . . Many camera makers, such as Kodak, have made downloading all of your digital image files as easy as pressing a button and presto! They are all on your computer. The downside is that loaded straight from your camera, your images have cryptic file names. When you download your images, change their names from something like "xj1239.jpg" to "2005.12 Holiday Party Group Photo.jpg"

  5. Match Your Paper and Electronic Filing -
    Organize the files in your computer to match your paper filing system -- use the same categories, sub-categories, and file names.

  6. Create Electronic Files Too -
    Just as you would not be able to find anything if it was dumped in a drawer, don't save a bunch of files into your main root directory. Use file folders to manage your program files and working documents. Use sub-folders to break it down further -- the same way you would file away your paper.

  7. Clean Out Your Files at Least Once a Year -
    Go through your storage media (disks, CDs, tapes, etc.) and hard drive at least once a year -- discard any obsolete programs and delete/remove/uninstall files that you don't need anymore.

Stephanie L. H. Calahan is president and founder of Calahan Solutions, Inc. ( - a premier professional organizing and consulting firm, serving a national and local clientele in corporate settings, home-based businesses, and residential environments.


Article Submitted On: December 17, 2005